Car Key Replacement

Car key replacement can get tricky depending on the type of car you drive. We explain the basics.

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Car Key Replacement

Car key replacement is the process of replacing a lost or broken key with a new one. (Bet you didn’t see that one coming.)

Who handles car key replacement?

If you need a car key replacement, you may have to go to a car dealership or car locksmith. 

Is car key replacement covered by car insurance?

Replacing your key without any coverage could actually be quite expensive—up to $500 for fancy models. Keys are not necessarily covered by auto insurance; it also depends on what happened to your keys, exactly. However, many insurers will provide some coverage in the event that your keys are stolen. In this case it would fall under comprehensive coverage.

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Who should I contact if I lose my car keys?

Losing a set of keys can be a nightmare, especially if you’re not close to home.

If you lose your car keys and don’t have a spare key, you can try calling the dealership where you bought your car. They might have a car key replacement that works with your car. If not, your next step would be to call a mobile locksmith or request roadside assistance. A mobile locksmith comes out to your car and unlocks it for you. An auto locksmith can also make you a new key on the spot.

If you bought a warranty with your car, it could cover lockouts. Your dealer may be able to fulfill the warranty, and calling them and mentioning the warranty could get you back on the road faster.

Can roadside assistance help with key replacement?

Sort of. 

If you added roadside assistance to your car insurance policy, they will likely send someone out to unlock your car. The cost will depend on the service you receive based on your situation. Your roadside assistance coverage usually covers the costs to send someone out to unlock the car door, perhaps using one of those nifty Slim Jims, which is helpful mainly if you’ve locked your keys inside. But you’d be responsible for the cost of repairing or replacing a lost or damaged key, or the lock itself.  

Types of car keys and key fobs

It used to be that your car key wasn’t that much different from your house key. But as cars have grown more high-tech, so have their keys. The type of key you have will directly influence its replacement cost.

If you’re unsure which key you had, consult your owner’s manual. The price of a new key depends on how technologically advanced it is. A local locksmith can usually make a new key for traditional keys, but a car key fob or smart key could mean you have to head to your car dealership. 

Traditional key

If you own a car with a traditional key, your cost for copying it will likely be modest. You can have a new key made at a hardware or key cutting store for between $7 and $25. But remember, that’s only helpful if you make a copy for yourself before you misplace your original set. 

Car key fob

The car key fob is a convenience, and can lock and unlock your car with the click of a button. But isn’t necessary to open your vehicle. You should still have a traditional key that will let you into your car. 

A key fob replacement can cost between $150 and $600 (yikes). 

Laser cut keys

Laser cut keys, also called sidewinder or internal keys, don’t have notches and grooves on them like a traditional key; instead, they have a groove cut in the middle. They’re harder and more expensive to copy, but you can get it done at any dealership, locksmith, or hardware store. 

Pricing for a laser cut key runs between $50 and $100. 

Car key fob and switchblade key

A car key fob and switchblade key combines the fob and key into one. The key releases—like a tiny, harmless switchblade—when you hit a small button in the side. Pretty neat, but these keys will be more expensive to replace. 

You may have to go to a car dealership or automotive locksmith to have one cut and re-programmed. Pricing varies from $15 to $50 depending on if your key fob also has a remote starter and other features. 

Transponder key

Transponder keys have a computer chip embedded in their plastic head. The wireless connection between the key and your car tells it to start. If you lose a key with a transponder chip and don’t have a back-up transponder key, your only option is to have your car towed to the dealership.

The dealership may require you to show proof of ownership before programming or ordering a replacement. If they have to order a new key, it could take several days. Once it arrives, they’ll program the transponder chip to your car.

Transponder keys can cost between $200 and $250 to replace, plus the cost of towing. So keep an eye on ‘em.

Keyless entry remote

Keyless entry remote keys send a radio frequency signal to your car to tell it to start. Unlike a transponder key, if the key fob isn’t working you can still use a traditional metal key to unlock your car. 

If you bought an aftermarket keyless entry remote, replacing it could be harder. Your dealership won’t be able to help, and you’ll need a locksmith. 

Smart key

Also called “keyless ignition,” smart keys are the most expensive keys to replace. A smart key works by pairing with a push button in your car which senses when the key is nearby. Once it confirms the key’s presence, you can push the button and start your car. 

Like the transponder key, if you lose a smart key you’ll have to tow your car to a dealership. They might have to order a new ignition key, plus you’d have to wait for it to arrive. Pricing varies from $220 to $500 for a new one, so keep track of that spare! 

Please note: Lemonade articles and other editorial content are meant for educational purposes only, and should not be relied upon instead of professional legal, insurance or financial advice. The content of these educational articles does not alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. While we regularly review previously published content to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date, there may be instances in which legal conditions or policy details have changed since publication. Any hypothetical examples used in Lemonade editorial content are purely expositional. Hypothetical examples do not alter or bind Lemonade to any application of your insurance policy to the particular facts and circumstances of any actual claim.